With Simon Breheny
Introduction: Bullying among children is a significant and serious issue. In recent years, thephenomenon described as “cyberbullying” has received a large amount of social, political, and academic attention.
The Commonwealth government has announced that it is seeking legislative change to deal with cyberbullying. The government plans to institute a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner with power to takedown harmful content directed at children from the social media sites.
The Children’s e-Safety Commissioner is a serious threat to freedom of speech.
The purpose of this paper is to outline the scope of the cyberbullying problem, the conceptual framework within it must be understood, and develop principles by which policymakers can address the cyberbullying problem. Without understanding the cyberbullying phenomenon it is impossible to devise effective policy that will not have unintended consequences and threaten basic liberties like freedom of speech. Unfortunately it is not clear that the government has clearly understood the causes, consequences, and characteristics of cyberbullying.
This paper argues that cyberbullying is a subset of bullying. It is bullying by electronic means. It is not a problem of a different kind from bullying in an offline environment. Cyberbullying is a social problem, not a technological one.